Everything We Know About the Astroworld Tragedy So Far

And the many questions that still remain.
Photo: Ken Murray/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Eight people were killed and hundreds injured at Travis Scott’s Astroworld music festival in Houston, Texas at NRG Park around 9:30 Friday night, November 5, after concertgoers surged toward the stage during the rapper’s headlining set. The dead ranged in age from 14 to 27. Twenty-five people were hospitalized; the youngest patient is just 10-years-old. Some people appear to have been trampled, authorities said. About 50,000 people were attending the show.

Houston officials have vowed to get answers about how these tragic events unfolded. “This is a very, very active investigation, and we will probably be at it for quite some time to determine what exactly happened,” Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said at a press briefing Saturday afternoon. Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner added: “This is now a criminal investigation that’s going to involve our homicide division, as well as narcotics, and we’re going to get down to the bottom of it.”

Some are wondering whether this could have been prevented. They have pointed not only to the chaotic situation Friday, but also to alleged safety issues at Scott’s previous performances, and prior issues at this venue and with the event’s promotor. Here is what we know about the devastating Astroworld incident so far.

At this point, it’s unclear if any single event triggered the chaos, or if it was a combination of factors at the sold-out venue. Public safety authorities’ statements and witness accounts provide some information about what happened. “The crowd for whatever reason began to push and surge towards the front of the stage, which caused the people in the front to be compressed — they were unable to escape that situation,” Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña told CNN.

Madeline Eskins, an ICU nurse who was at the festival, said that the situation escalated as a countdown clock neared the moment when Scott would appear. She and her boyfriend arrived at the stage around 6:03 p.m., to land a spot near the front. About 30 minutes before Scott took the stage, the crowd got more and more packed. “All of a sudden, people come pressed up against each other, pushed forward and backward. As the timer got closer,” Eskins told CNN, “it got worse and worse.” Eskins also said: “I had constant pressure on my chest … I was being squeezed …Right when he started performing his first song, I looked at my boyfriend and said, ‘We have to get out of here.’”

“Once he started, all hell broke loose. All of what is to be 50,000 people ran to the front, compressing everyone together with the little air available,” another concertgoer, Alexis Guavin, told CNN. “ Luckily, I have mosh pit experience and am 6-feet tall so I could at least put my head up to breathe, but others [were] not so fortunate.”

Some people in the audience said some concertgoers couldn’t get out of the packed crowd when things started to go awry. Eskins recalled that she and her boyfriend couldn’t quickly leave the area in question. “I just remember looking up, passing out, and then I was in and out for a little while,” she remarked. “I didn’t see anything, but I could kind of feel what was going on. Someone pulled me over a fence, and then I passed out again.”

According to The Associated Press, some concertgoers said that barricades near the stage, meant to divide different types of ticket holders, kept attendees from escaping. Billy Nasser, who was at the show, said there was an area, formed by one of these stage barricades, that was like a closet. Nasser reportedly said that people were thrown into the closet-like zone, and that the door was closed. Joshua Robinson told the AP that barricades created a space that was “just way too small and compact” for all the people there.

Authorities have claimed that the venue met inspectors’ criteria for safe entry and exit. Peña claimed that the venue could have handled 200,000 people under city fire codes. Authorities limited that number to 50,000 for the performance. (According to reports, 100,000 tickets went on sale for this year’s event; it’s also unclear how many people were at the venue at the time of the incident given that some had breached barriers earlier in the day.) Officials said that safety precautions had been taken, claiming: “We had inspectors to ensure that the means of egress, the doors in and out of that venue, were maintained open and unobstructed.” They also claimed: “These injuries did not occur as people would try to exit the venue. And that was evident by the fact that once the event was terminated, [it] was cleared out within the hour … What we’re looking into is what caused the crowd surge.”

Some videos appeared to show a person climbing onto a platform, where a camera operator was filming (the event was livestreamed on Apple Music), and asking for the show to stop, yelling that people were dying. Some other people can be heard downplaying this attendee’s pleas, saying that he should “calm down,” according to The New York Times.

 Other video appears to show attendees dancing on — and blocking — an ambulance that was trying to get into the crowd. Video also seems to show people getting on top of security vehicles. It does not seem like those fans knew what was going on or why the vehicles were trying to get into the crowd, according to The Daily Beast.

Maybe. TMZ reported Saturday that “a source connected to Astroworld” told them “someone in the crowd went crazy and began injecting people with some sort of drug.” The Hollywood Reporter, citing two sources, said that “police were looking into a drug-spiking incident in an area of the festival where the chaos first began. The sources said it appeared to have been targeted at unknowing people, and that the crowd surge may have resulted from panic as attendees ran for safety.” The police’s initial statement on these claims was that cops had seen these reports and “we’re investigating” them.

At the press briefing, Finner addressed them directly, saying: “One of the narratives was that some individual was injecting other people with drugs.” While it remains unclear if that is the case, authorities do have a report of a security officer who was “reaching over to restrain or grab a citizen and felt a prick in his neck.” When the officer was examined, he went unconscious and medics “administered Narcan,” Finner said. (Narcan is given to people suspected of undergoing an opioid overdose.) “He was revived and the medical staff did notice a prick that was similar to a prick that you would get if somebody is trying to inject [a person],” Finner stated.

Later at the press conference, authorities revealed that Narcan had been administered “several” times at the concert. Authorities did not provide an exact number of doses, specific times, nor exact circumstances under which they were given.

The Fire Department said that 11 of the patients they took to the hospital were experiencing cardiac arrest; it’s currently unclear what could have caused that. Some attendees have said that the on-site medical staff were insufficient. Eskins recalled that she woke in an area, sharing a bottle of water with someone. She told CNN that there was only one AED machine, which is used to aid people in cardiac arrest, and only one Ambu bag, which is used to give air to people who aren’t breathing normally. She said that there were “maybe” four medics and claimed that “one of them did not even know how to check for a pulse.” “There was only four of them doing CPR” while there were “three to four people in cardiac arrest at one time and one AED machine,” Eskins claimed.

This is where the timeline becomes tricky to parse. Finner said that the police department saw attendees “going down” at 9:30 p.m. Fire officials said they initiated a mass-casualty incident” around 9:30 p.m. Finner said that police officials immediately told concert organizers about the escalating problems. The concert was canceled 40 minutes later, following fire department and venue officials, according to the AP.

Finner defended how much time it took for the event to be shuttered. “You cannot just close when you’ve got 50,000 — over 50,000 — individuals, OK?” Finner reportedly remarked. “We have to worry about rioting — riots — when you have a group that’s that young.” Authorities said that there were around 528 Houston Police Department officers at the venue, and 755 private security agents.

The Houston Chronicle’s music critic, Joey Guerra, told CNN: “[Scott] did stop the show, I want to say, three or four times when he noticed people in distress.” Guerra also said that Scott performed for about an hour and 15 minutes before ending his show.

Scott seemed like he was aware that something was up with the crowd, but might not have known the extent of what was happening, attendee Nick Johnson told AP. Several reports indicate that Scott stopped his show at least twice.

During one of those times, social media video appears to show Scott stopping his show and asking for help for someone in the crowd, saying: “Security, somebody help real quick.”

Yes. Mycah Hatfield, a local ABC reporter, said that “as we were arriving to the Astroworld Festival at NRG Park right at 2:00, a stampede burst through the gates. Hundreds of people destroyed the VIP security entrance, bypassing the checkpoint. People were trampled. Some were detained.”

Amy Harris, a freelance photographer with the AP, remembered an “aggressive” crowd environment throughout the day. She said that atmosphere stemmed from how concertgoers were acting — pushing and hurrying toward stage barricades and closed-off VIP areas. “It was definitely the most chaotic festival environment that I’ve been in,” Harris said. “I felt uneasy all day.”

And on October 24, just over a week before Astroworld, prior to a Playboi Carti concert at the same venue, NRG Park, the Atlanta rapper’s fans nocked down metal detectors and shifted metal barricades outside the venue. The concert organizers canceled this show because of the bedlam, Rolling Stone said.

Repeatedly so. In 2017, Scott encouraged a concert-goer at his Terminal 5 show in New York City to jump off a second-floor balcony, remarking: “I see you, but are you gonna do it?.” At that same show, fan Kyle Green was paralzyed after being pushed off a third-floor balcony, Rolling Stone reported. In 2019, during the second Astroworld festival, hundreds of people rushed metal barricades to break into the event. Three people were hospitalized “with minor leg injuries from trampling,” Rolling Stone noted. The police department first described the event as insufficiently staffed, tweeting that “promoters did not plan sufficiently for the large crowds,” according to the local ABC affiliate. The police department deleted that tweet, and then posted a far rosier depiction of events, claiming they were “successfully working together” with organizers.

In 2015, Chicago police arrested Scott at Lollapalooza after he allegedly urged fans to climb over security barriers and come onto stage, Rolling Stone reported. Scott pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in 2018 for an incident at a Rogers, Arkansas concert the year prior; local police said that Scott “encouraged people to rush the stage,” according to Billboard. Hip-Hop Lately also reports that Scott has deleted a tweet from May in which he seemed to support sneaking “wild” fans into his shows.

Live Nation, which produced Astroworld, has also been subjected to scrutiny for alleged safety problems, the Houston Chronicle reports. Over a three-year period, from 2016 and 2019, Live Nation Entertainment and Live Nation Worldwide were “cited for 10 OSHA violations and was fined for serious violations, including problems with a ladder, rope and scaffolding that caused a fall at a theater in Connecticut in 2016,” the newspaper stated. Officials found “minor violations” at an event venue in Mountain View, California in 2017 and while conducting an inspection in Washington state in 2019. A non-union staff member was taken to the hospital for cuts early September 27, 2018 “when he was struck by a 6-foot steel post that fell in in a staging area at another California event.” The promoter was handed a $10,000 fine for that incident, per the newspaper. Live Nation faced a civil suit, after a concert attendee alleged that she fractured her leg while in a packed crowd at an out-of-doors Gwen Stefani show in summer 2016.

Scott tweeted Saturday afternoon: I’m absolutely devastated by what took place last night. My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival.” Scott also said: “Houston PD has my total support as they continue to look into the tragic loss of life.”

Festival organizers earlier tweeted: “Our hearts are with the Astroworld Festival Family Tonight—especially those we lost and their loved ones.”

Scott later posted an Instagram video on Saturday night, responding to criticism that he didn’t stop the show amid the chaos, claiming that he wasn’t aware of “the severity of the situation.” “Anytime I could make out, you know, anything that’s going on, you know, I stop the show and, you know, help them get the help they need,” Scott claimed. Scott also added that he’s cooperating with authorities to “try to get to the bottom of this.” Scott also said, “I’m honestly just devastated, and I could never imagine anything like this happening.”

Kylie Jenner, Scott’s girlfriend, also posted on Instagram in response to criticism that she kept posting on social media while the incident took place. (Jenner attended his show with their three-year-old daughter Stormi; the couple are currently expecting their second child.) Jenner claimed that neither she nor Scott knew that people were dying or suffering injuries during his concert, and only learned of the deaths following the show.

“Travis and I are broken and devastated,” she wrote. “I want to make it clear we weren’t aware of any fatalities until the news came out after the show and in no world would have continued filming or performing.”

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